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Learning From Classic Films

Part 5: Movements

1. Camera movements:

Camera movements are using camera to move frames. These below are basic camera movements are foundational to cinematography.

Tracking shot: Any shot in which the camera physically moves sideways, forward, or backward through the scene. Tracking shots usually last longer than other shots, follow one or more moving subjects, and immerse the audience in a particular setting. The term tracking shot traditionally referred to a shot achieved with a camera dolly mounted on a dolly track, but modern filmmakers shoot tracking shots using stabilized gimbal mounts, Steadi-cam mounts, motorized vehicles, and even drones.

Dolly shot: Dollying is a type of tracking shot in which the camera operator moves the entire camera forward or backward along a track.

Truck shot: Trucking is a type of tracking shot in which the entire camera moves left or right along a track.

Pan shot: Panning is a camera movement where the camera pivots left or right on a horizontal axis while its base remains in a fixed location. A camera pan expands the audience's point of view by swiveling on a fixed point, taking in a wider view as it turns.

Whip pan: A whip pan (also called a “swish pan”) is a quicker type of pan shot in which the camera pans so fast that it creates a motion blur effect. Directors use whip pans to move back and forth between different parts of the same location, to increase the energy in a scene, to transition between scenes, or to indicate the passage of time.

Tilt shot: A camera tilt is a vertical movement in which the camera base remains in a fixed location while the camera pivots vertically. Tilting is useful for establishing shots that contain tall vertical scenery or introducing a character in a dramatic fashion.

Crane shot: A crane shot is any shot from a camera mounted on a robotic crane. Cranes are capable of lifting the camera high in the air and moving it in any direction, meaning a crane shot may also incorporate all other types of camera movements (like a dolly, truck, pan, tilt, etc.). A cinematographer may use a crane shot to sweep up and over the action in a scene. Crane shots are sometimes called "jib shots," although a jib is smaller than a crane and more limited in its movement.

If you don't know how to use camera movements, just keep it still !

Aerial shot: An aerial shot is a shot from extremely high in the air, giving the viewer a bird's eye view of the action in the scene. Filmmakers originally had to use helicopters to capture an aerial shot, but today, filmmaking drones are a more affordable and popular option.

Pedestal shot: A pedestal shot is a vertical camera movement in which the entire camera raises or lowers in relation to the subject. A pedestal shot differs from a camera tilt because the entire camera moves up or down rather than just pivoting from a fixed point.

Handheld shot: A handheld shot is an unstabilized shot in which the camera operator physically holds the camera and moves it throughout the filming location. Handheld camera shots are often shaky and create a more frenzied, hectic feeling.

A Steadicam shot is a sub-type of handheld shot where the camera operator uses a stabilizing device to create a smooth, fluid tracking shot while holding the camera.

Zoom shot: A zoom shot is a camera shot in which the focal length of a zoom lens changes while the camera remains stationary. A cinematographer may choose to zoom in for a close-up or zoom out for a long shot (also called a wide shot).

Rack focus: A rack focus is when the lens focus changes mid-shot in order to shift the viewer's attention to a different part of the frame. For example, if a cinematographer starts a scene focused on a character in the foreground, they may rack focus mid-scene so that character becomes blurry and an important object in the background becomes clear. A rack focus is similar to a zoom shot in that the camera does not actually move.

Dolly zoom: A dolly zoom is a shot in which the camera crew dollies backward or forward while simultaneously zooming the lens in the opposite direction. This causes the subject in the frame to stay the same size while the foreground and background are distorted. A dolly zoom is also called a "Vertigo shot" in tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's famous execution of this movement in his 1958 thriller Vertigo.

I used dolly in to open my story at 1:12 - 1:22

And dolly out to end the story at 7:14 - 7:28

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2. Movements in stills

I love using still frames! But them would be boring if you did not add any movements in the shot. This method in cinematography also call composing movements or blocking. Let's see this video to learn from the Master of cinematic movements - Akira Kurosawa ( 23/3/1910 - 6/9/1998)

Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker and painter who directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential film-makers in the history of cinema.

Kurosawa entered the Japanese film industry in 1936, following a brief stint as a painter. After years of working on numerous films as an assistant director and scriptwriter, he made his debut as a director during World War II with the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata (a.k.a. Judo Saga). After the war, the critically acclaimed Drunken Angel (1948), in which Kurosawa cast the then little-known actor Toshiro Mifune in a starring role, cemented the director's reputation as one of the most important young film-makers in Japan. The two men would go on to collaborate on another fifteen films.

Rashomon, which premiered in Tokyo, became the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. The commercial and critical success of that film opened up Western film markets for the first time to the products of the Japanese film industry, which in turn led to international recognition for other Japanese film-makers. Kurosawa directed approximately one film per year throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, including a number of highly regarded (and often adapted) films, such as Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961). After the 1960s he became much less prolific; even so, his later work—including his final two epics, Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985)—continued to receive great acclaim, though more often abroad than in Japan. 

 So can movement tell a story? Sure, if you’re as gifted as Akira Kurosawa. More than any other filmmaker, he had an innate understanding of movement and how to capture it onscreen. So How Akira Kurosawa Used Movement to Tell His Stories? 

Movements of nature

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A still frame with movement of wind

Movements of group

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A still frame with movements of people with sparkle lights

Movements of Individual

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A still frame with movement of yoga postures

The history books say that there were three Japanese filmmakers to emerge in the 1950s – Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa. Never mind that Mizoguchi and Ozu made many of their best movies in the 1930s. Never mind that masterful, innovative directors like Mikio Naruse and Keisuke Kinoshita have been unfairly overshadowed by the brilliance of these three greats.

Mizoguchi was an early modernist who by the end of his career made meditative movies about how women suffer at the hands of men. His masterpieces like Ugetsu and Sansho Dayu feel like Buddhist scroll paintings come to life. Ozu, “the most Japanese” of all filmmakers, made quietly moving dramas about families, like Tokyo Story, but did so in a way that discarded such Hollywood principles as continuity editing and the 180 degree rule. Ozu was a quiet radical.

Compared to Ozu and Mizoguchi, Kurosawa’s movies are noisy, masculine and vital. Unlike Ozu, he didn’t challenge Hollywood film form but improved on it. Born roughly a decade after the other two filmmakers, Kurosawa spent his youth watching Western movies, absorbing the lessons of his cinematic heroes like John Ford, Howard Hawks and Frank Capra. At his creative height, in the 1950s and 60s, Kurosawa produced masterpiece after masterpiece. Hollywood would remake or reference Kurosawa constantly in the years that followed but few of those films had Kurosawa’s inventiveness.

Tony Zhou, who has made a career of dissecting movies in his excellent video series Every Frame a Picture, argues that the key to Kurosawa is movement. “A Kurosawa movie moves like no one else’s,” Zhou notes in his video. “Each one is a master class in different types of motion and also ways to combine them.”

Kurosawa had an innate understanding that there is inherent drama in the wind blowing in the trees. Like Andrei Tarkovsky and later Terrence Malick, he liked to place human drama squarely in the realm of nature. The rain falls, a fire rages and that movement makes an image compelling. He understood that graphic considerations outweighed psychological ones – he simplified and exaggerated a character’s movement with the frame to make character traits and emotions easy to register for the audience. His camera movements were clear, motivated and fluid. Zhou compares Seven Samurai with The Avengers. You might have thought that The Avengers was uninspired and soulless but after watching Zhou’s video, you’ll understand why – aside from the silly plot and characters – the movie was uninspired and soulless. The piece should be required viewing for filmmakers everywhere. You can watch it above. And below you can see another video Zhou did on Kurosawa, focusing on his 1960 movie The Bad Sleep Well.

By the way, you do not need to put every types of movement in every shots. That's  just tiring! But there is a nice middle ground with camera movements and composing movements. And you will not know which works best until you try them all. If you combine right motions to the right emotions, you will get somethings cinematic!

See you on part 6 of " Learning from classic films blog series"!

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